Article ID: 2021-B017
After a specific point in history, hominin evolution accelerated to a level that could not be accounted for by natural selection alone. An alternative mechanism has been proposed based on mutual interaction among neural, cognitive, and ecological niches in a positive feedback loop (triadic niche construction [TNC]). Nevertheless, the trigger events for the cognitive revolution of Homo sapiens as well as the reasons for this event being limited to a single species remain unknown. In this paper, using a multidisciplinary approach involving psychology, neurobiology, and phenomenology, we propose a shift in the mechanisms underlying TNC, from TNC-1 in hominids to TNC-2 in Homo sapiens, to answer these questions. As the hominin brain expanded during TNC-1, latent cognitive capabilities were incubated within its neural framework to be expressed with a simple rewiring among brain areas in TNC-2, a quick and inexpensive process but one that requires a unique set of preconditions to commence. This process was bootstrapped by the advanced function of “projection,” which enabled humans to recognize the “self” in a particular time and space in the world, allowing the manipulation of this world (in both physical and symbolic dimensions) again in a “positive feedback loop.” Finally, on the basis of this hypothesis, we discuss the immediate problems to be addressed in the research fields of cognitive science, archeology, anthropology, and neurobiology.